Help - Electrical Problems - Solutions

Discussion in 'Home Theater Projects' started by Doug Pyle, Jun 18, 2003.

  1. Doug Pyle

    Doug Pyle Second Unit

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    I am attempting to post this again - it was lost when the database went down yesterday. I'm no expert, but lights that spontaneously dim from time to time surely are a bad sign. More dramatically, my 10-year old Yamaha RX-V870 just blew out - with a loud POP and smoke. This is the second casualty the receiver suffered, the first was related to the power/protection circuits that were replaced (?I think that was the explanation?). The repairman (a warranty shop, though not covered by warranty obviously), said unstable supply of power could have contributed to the problem, but he couldn't swear that was the cause. BTW: I do have an off-the-shelf, Costco-bought surge suppressor, protecting spikes through coax, telephone and A/C plugs.

    When I mentioned these problems to the local HT dealer, his reaction seemed like he smelled blood; I don't think I can trust his advice, as it seems like a sales pitch for Monster, even if some of the advice might be valid.

    Other evidence of electrical problems: I see almost imperceptibly quick white flashes on my older 27" television on occasion. Not on every viewing; days can go by without it, then it can occur several times in a single day. Also, the A/C perceptibly sucks power - even though it replaced an older A/C with even more dramatic power drain on the home. An electrician who serviced the fuse box and microwave recently, measured fluctuating voltage, averaging 114v. He said I should get protection for my valuable equipment. He also grumbled something unintelligible about the nonstandard wiring in the walls.

    I live in a hi-rise condo, 18th floor. I don't own the wiring in the wall so any solution I have control over start at the wall outlet.

    Now, I've been planning an upgrade to a flagship receiver, in the $2K-ish range (perhaps Yamaha), along with a general HT upgrade (speakers, DVD, HD display). But with these problems, I may scale back my plan to 2nd tier at least in the receiver (which I'm buying first), and use the saved $1k or so on power conditioners, protection, or even the Monster 2000 voltage regulator (which costs about $1400 - ouch). Being no electronics expert, I really don't know whether these products -- or which of them -- would really solve the kind of problems I have. Given the expense, I want to be sure that:

    1) I'm not throwing money at a solution to a different problem than the one I have, and
    2) I don't want invest on an HT upgrade and leave it vulnerable to the electrical problems, yet I'm not confident enough to identify what I need to protect the investment.

    Any suggestions or advice? One thought I had is to hire an electrician to make an assessment of the power, so I'll know exactly what electrical shortcomings I'm coping with.

    Thanks in advance for any replies.
     
  2. Brian tj

    Brian tj Stunt Coordinator

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    Hi Doug
    Talk to your neighbors do any of them have the same trouble? More than likely they do. Maybe you have to get together and call building oner make him spend the money.
    The hard part to prove their is trouble. Look for electrician to check voltage at peek time you have to figure out when that is. Start by charting brown outs, time and day. Monster my be helpful I think only one mod. helps voltage stabilizing. I have herd of CPU for computers bing used? Good luck keep us posted.

    PS I have a 130 yr old Victorian home I know about baaaaaaaad weiring. Ran to 20 amp dedicated lines just to fined I have trouble with mane panel. If you have time have a look at my ht web page. Sorry nothing their to help you. http://users.nac.net/armor/
     
  3. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    Yeah, that little database glitch was a pain!

    Some thoughts, in no particular order

    #1 Make sure your homeowners has provisions for full equipment replacement in the event of things like surges, lightning, power disturbances, floods. That's an often overlooked thing.

    #2 Examine your contract with the building management. Might be something in there with them having to provide a certain measure of quality...

    #3 Home Depot's got a circuit tester that's $4 in the states. Check all your outlets to determine if their wired correctly. Any type of 'protection' device you put depends upon your having a valid ground.

    #4 There are relatively inexpensive, around $50, recording multimeters. You can use them, in conjunction with your PC, to record your voltage over long periods of time. This would give you some insight into what's going on. It may indicate that your voltage at the outlets is stable (+/- a couple of volts) or if dropouts occur at certain times.

    #5 Flickering lights could be due to a variety of reasons. Power variations sure are one possibility. Possibly more likely is a bad electrical connection with the lights and the romex. If you're 'handy' and careful, you can simply remake those connections. Maybe clean up the wiring with an emory cloth and just wire-nut it back up. Of course the fixtures themselves might be crappy. There's a reason for the term 'builder's grade' and it isn't quality...it's for cheapness and expediency

    #6 Building probably already has surge protection. You can contact your building management or find a helpful employee like an electrician or maintenance person. They should be able to clue you in.

    #7 You need that electrician to expand on this 'non-standard' wiring comment. It's disturbing to say the least and perhaps it violates some building codes.

    #8 In situations where the wiring is suspect, it's my own personal opinion that a local surge protection device that uses Silicon Avalanche Diodes is a very good way to go. Search under the term Transtector on HTF (use the long search option). I've posted on this a few times. A unit that'd be fully capable of protecting against surges and glitches (noise spikes) and provide the usual EMI/RFI is about $100 or less. You need to deal directly with the manufacturer.

    #9 Just might've been that 870's time and pure coincidence. Hard to say though.

    #10 If you don't have a good ground and referring up to #2 above, then no surge protector is effective. You need to make sure you've got one.

    #11 Consider buying with a credit card that doubles the warranty.

    #12 You probably have access to the circuit breaker. Plug a light into everything and turn everything on. Find out what outlets are on what breaker.

    Before you speculate and consider this item or that item, you need to consider #3 and #4 as this'll guide you towards a cost effective approach. It's one thing to buy sundry protection that costs beaucoup dollars and find you've done nothing at all. The audio industry preys upon our paranoia.

    When salespeople become too helpful I'm reminded of the line from the movie, 'The Natural'..."you're standing so close to me that I can't tell if it's your toes or mine that I'm feeling" or something like that.

    Also consider talking to your neighbors. See if they're observing the same things you are.
     
  4. Bill Kane

    Bill Kane Screenwriter

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    Doug, Here’s my retread; Chu Gai and I talk about similar issues:

    You’ve touched upon just about all the salient points here!

    1.How much black-box installation is useful when originating power is suspect.
    2.What’s the cost-benefit of this particular situation.
    3.What’s minimally prudent.

    To verify power supply, one can use a multimeter set at the 200VAC scale periodically poked into the wall socket or open surge protector outlet, over a couple of days and nights to get a log of the voltage variation. Generally, a 5% swing is acceptable (down to 114V) and modern equipment power supplies are designed for these minor fluctuations.
    For example, the mainstream Panamax MAX8 units and the black-box (rack style) versions are designed for major brownouts and prolonged overvoltages by shutting down at 95V and below, or 137V and above.

    Buying a full-blown voltage regulator whether the MP2000 or other is a last-ditch, desperate move IMO only when the home power delivery is constantly unstable. At the higher end, the www.exactpower.com 15-amp unit is highly regarded but at $1800. In the event you think a VR is what you want for a growing, expensive HT system, the MP AVS2000 wud be OK.
    [I personally don’t put much into battery-backup UPS units for HT use.]

    Yes, in the meantime, a beefier surge suppressor/power center also might be a good idea, up to the Panamax MAX 4300/4310 level, I’d say. Unfortunately, these units are called “power conditioners” by some, but the term is misleading. Mostly, they provide filtering for RF/EMI AC line noise interference, both for audio and video. But don’t expect it to apply 117-120VAC voltage stabilization.

    Hopefully, your old Yamaha blew up out of old age, not from basic power delivery at the outlet(s). However, it is important to assure your wall outlets and the quality of the duplexes (commercial or industrial grade for beefier service) are the best they can be. Did the electrician check for grounding and polarity in the wall sockets, in case the hot and neutral wires are switched in one or more? A $10 DIY checker is available at the hardware store for this using a bank of LED lights to report status.

    Hope these thots further your pondering…

    bill
     
  5. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    and to think of the terrible weather and scantily clad women you must put up living in Hawaii...it just breaks my heart!
     
  6. Doug Pyle

    Doug Pyle Second Unit

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    Thanks for the suggestions - especially Chu Gai & Bill. Seems I learn new things every day with this HT hobby. I can use your lists as checklists to try.

    I will look into some of these inexpensive means to check on ground and measure current before spending $$. These were exactly the kind of suggestions I need, before plunking down big bucks. ... Hadn't thought of checking with neighbors (too obvious and simple to actually think of without your advice!).

    Bill, sounds like you expect the voltage regulators such as the Monster 2000 really work, and can be worthwhile -- that is if there is a significant need beyond normal voltage fluctuations, to justify the expense. Of course I hope less expensive fixes will be needed.

    By the way, in my original post the "A/C" that sucked power stood for Air Conditioning (our abreviation overused at work). Didn't mean to be ambiguous. If not for the symptoms in other electrical items including the "A/C", I'd assume it was nothing but old age that knocked off the Yamaha 870. (It still might be so.)

    Part of my thought on hiring an electrician would be to add credibility and expertise - if it turns out I need to convince the building association that wiring work is needed.
     
  7. Bill Kane

    Bill Kane Screenwriter

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    I imagine asking the neighbors if they think they’re getting enough electricity is like asking them if they think they’re getting enough sex. Response: Why, uh, sure!….

    I’m just suggesting this can be anecdotal, but not technically useful.

    In the end, as you surmise, assuring that your unit’s wall outlets and wall lighting switches are modern/upgraded and properly wired may be the most you can do. As Chu Gai suggests, older wiring junctions that have loosened may contribute to flickering lights. Delivery of outside power to your unit should be within some rough 4-6percent tolerance from the Hawaii power company, and it wud be difficult to ask condo association authoritiers to replace the wiring all the way thru the building. (As an aside, you used the term “fusebox.” Is it actually, indicating quite old construction, or is it a circuit breaker type?)

    An actual voltage regulator might be a justified investment for personal enjoyment if one has a new, expensive tv monitor and a rather nice audio amplifier/speaker system in order to ensure constant 120VAC power delivery so the equipment operates at optimum capability.

    Otherwise, one can get along w/o a VR in the absence of WIDE voltage swings and brownouts/sags day after day. Component power supplies carry their own VR circuitry for normal fluctuations.

    So your condo unit needs an electrical “physical” or check-up for more data to judge where your power needs and solutions may lie…

    bill
     
  8. Doug Pyle

    Doug Pyle Second Unit

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